As I Saw It… General Hospital

general_hospitalWhen soap operas were first created as radio programs back in the 1930’s, they were – for all intents and purposes – a modern take on morality plays.  Audiences waited in eager anticipation to see if their favorite hero or heroine overcame the machinations of reviled villains. Those same audiences cheered as the villains were exposed and punished.  Soap in general have followed that same pattern.  General Hospital stayed true to that format for years.  In the 1960’s, Steve Hardy (the late John Beradino) was the doctor who could do no wrong – no matter who or what he had to face.  In the 1970’s,  Dr. Lesley Webber (Denise Alexander) was the epitome of the soap heroine.  She even went so far as to confess to a murder she didn’t commit to spare her daughter Laura (Genie Francis) from standing trial and going to prison.  In the 1980’s, the scales tipped as supporting character Luke Spencer (Tony Geary), infatuated with Laura, raped her on the dance floor of the campus disco and forever changed the definition of a soap opera hero.  When the writers and producers saw the chemistry between Francis and Geary, they quickly re-wrote the story as a “seduction” and the biggest supercouple in daytime history was born.  

By the late 1990’s something had happened to General Hospital.  It became hard to determine who was a villain and who was a hero.   Mobsters like Sonny Corinthos (Maurice Benard) and Jason Morgan (Steve Burton) were criminals – but written as romantic leads.  Fans cheered for them instead of hoping they would be apprehended and sent to prison for their crimes.  General Hospital was no longer a take on morality plays.  

When I watched last week, I expected to see a violent mess of a television show.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Sonny and Jason, still the Tony Soprano and Christopher Moltisanti of daytime drama, acknowledged Michael’s birthday in a tender scene.  

The wedding of Robin and Patrick (Kimberly McCullough, Jason Thomspon) was like watching a big soap wedding from the 1980’s – and not just because it showcased two daytime superstars from the 1980’s in Finola Hughes (Anna) and Tristan Rogers (Robert) – but because it featured long scenes with large amounts of the cast dancing and talking and going over plot points.  

Bradford Anderson’s Spinelli is an acquired taste.  Viewers either really like him or really don’t.  Put me in the “like” category.  He’s not a typical soap hero, but he’s so like able that he jumps off the screen.  There is definite chemistry between Anderson and Maxie Jones (Kirsten Storms).

It was odd seeing Laura Wright as Carly.  For years, Wright was Cassie Layne on Guiding Light on CBS while on ABC Sarah Brown was Carly.  Now Wright is GH‘s Carly and Brown is GH‘s Claudia.  Both actresses are wonderful, but to me, Brown will always be Carly and Wright will always be Cassie.  That said, Sarah Brown didn’t have much to do as Claudia, but she can still tear up a scene with co-star Benard.

The writing on the show is a bit uneven, but the show still boasts some of the best dialogue writers in the business.  The sets, once some of the most elegant on soaps, are starting to look old and drab. The direction, however, is still top notch.  

While GH didn’t make the cut for my “Must See” TiVo list, it was better – a lot better – than I had hoped.

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4 Responses to “As I Saw It… General Hospital”

  1. GH has been on a roll for a few weeks but you REALLY missed out on GH: Night Shift. That was classic soap.

  2. Wow! I am surprised. As a long time viewer of GH and soaps in general, I find GH to be the most disgustingly violent, repetitive, misogynistic, immoral, boring, bitter soap opera on air. There is no familial relationships, no romance except for Robin and Patrick and no umbrella stories setting off sub-stories into their own direction and building to the main story to climax. This is NOT your mom or grandmother’s GH. I feel like you got this false sense of what the show is truly like week after week because you happened upon a holiday week regarding a successful wedding (very rare on GH) and other non-heavy mob related stories. Normally, every single week, there is a shooting, a stabbing, an explosion, a rival mob group threatening Jason and Sonny’s turf. No explanation had ever been given as to what exactly it is that Sonny exports and imports. They shot a 12 year old in the head and the same female character was shot twice in one year, once on her wedding day to Sonny, of course. Carly has suffered miscarriage after miscarriage and there have been so many brain tumors that I need a lobotomy myself to keep it all in check. I watch 4 soaps a week and GH is one of them but I am hoping to switch to either DOOL to watch Marlena and John’s send-off and see how that show is faring or GL for Philip Spaulding’s return hoping that with cancelation looming that the show quickly pick up the drama and focus on the core and what used to matter in Springfield and not sweaty, ugly, lower middle class Peapack, NJ which is fine and all but not the sprawling, sophisticated, urban/wealthy suburbs that Springfield was before they changed production models. I want to love GH but they need to balance the mob with the rest of what makes soap opera such a great genre. I urge you to watch the next month as they do another one of their “24′ style rip-off stories where each episode represents an hour in the life of some great, horrible, violent, deathly event in Port Charles. Unfortunately, “love in the afternoon” has been replaced by “guns in the afternoon.” Don’t let one nostalgic, good week fool you into thinking that GH is not one of the worst soaps currently on air, a close 2nd to ATWT, AMC, B&B and DOOL. That is not saying much either. Just my 2 cheap cents.

    • Corey, the points you raise are exactly why I stated that while I was pleasantly surprised by most of the five episodes I watched, I can’t keep watching. It would take more than one good week to bring me back to GH full time.

  3. monica t. Says:

    Jeff, I completely co-sign to what Corey says and I am contemplating not watching at all and at one time or another I kept up with them all in their heydays. But all of them tire me out and in the extreme case of GH, I have lessened my viewing considerably,the constant suspending of what I view on screen has slowly turned sour and I just don’t give a good damn anymore. You would be wise to not watch again, but if you do have a BIG BOTTLE OF YOUR FAVE ALCOHOL to endure it again.

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